Touchdowns for Touchstone this week: support your local artists and art institutions

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem logo

It would be a very dead place if the arts community wasn’t here.
Pamela Wallace of Crowded Kitchen Players

Followers know that Gadfly has been making a concerted effort to support the residential arts community — home-grown talent!

He’s hoping that local artists in various genres will see Gadfly as a place to publish their work and to discuss their work. Pass the word to others!

Mark your calendars for the first and second week of June for the next Touchstone presentations: June 2, 5, 9, 12.

FRESH VOICES 2020

Always fresh, sometimes provocative, never ordinary – Touchstone’s apprentice showcase returns for 2020! In light of recent events concerning public health and safety, these performances have been developed to take place remotely, and will feature both downloadable and streaming content from Touchstone Theatre apprentices Sean Patrick Cassidy and Adam Ercolani.

June 5 @ 7pm, streaming on YouTube Live
POTHOLE
Let’s go for a drive. The best conversations happen in your car. The best concerts do, too. 

DR. SOGOL’S MAGNIFICENT, MALFUNCTIONING, INTERGALACTIC, COSMIC CAR WASH AND STAMPS
A Quality Wash. Everytime. A completely customized and curated, compacted dose of “live” theatre.

June 2, 5, 9, 12, released at www.isonationpresents.com
ISO/NATION PRESENTS
A modern radio play for deep listeners of the Lehigh Valley and Beyond.

Fresh Voices 2020
Viewing/listening is FREE, and donations are gratefully accepted at bit.ly/FreshVoices2020

touchstone 2
321 E. 4th St.

Fresh Voices from Touchstone in early June

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem logo

It would be a very dead place if the arts community wasn’t here.
Pamela Wallace of Crowded Kitchen Players

Followers know that Gadfly has been making a concerted effort to support the residential arts community — home-grown talent!

He’s hoping that local artists in various genres will see Gadfly as a place to publish their work and to discuss their work. Pass the word to others!

And he will call attention to local events and productions that showcase local artistic skills. Pass him the word!

Recently he called attention to Touchstone Theatre’s Young Playwrights’ Festival. 10 or so original works by our elementary school students. It was amazing — even more so because of the agility of the braintrust at Touchstone headquarters in moving this in-person experience online because of the coronavirus beast. It was — drum roll again — amazing. There were some 1200 online views of the Festival, and nearly $10,000 was raised. A special thanks to sponsor Peron Development too!

Mark your calendars for the first and second week of June for the next Touchstone presentations.

FRESH VOICES 2020

Always fresh, sometimes provocative, never ordinary – Touchstone’s apprentice showcase returns for 2020! In light of recent events concerning public health and safety, these performances have been developed to take place remotely, and will feature both downloadable and streaming content from Touchstone Theatre apprentices Sean Patrick Cassidy and Adam Ercolani.

June 5 @ 7pm, streaming on YouTube Live
POTHOLE
Let’s go for a drive. The best conversations happen in your car. The best concerts do, too. 

DR. SOGOL’S MAGNIFICENT, MALFUNCTIONING, INTERGALACTIC, COSMIC CAR WASH AND STAMPS
A Quality Wash. Everytime. A completely customized and curated, compacted dose of “live” theatre.

June 2, 5, 9, 12, released at www.isonationpresents.com
ISO/NATION PRESENTS
A modern radio play for deep listeners of the Lehigh Valley and Beyond.

Fresh Voices 2020
Viewing/listening is FREE, and donations are gratefully accepted at bit.ly/FreshVoices2020

touchstone 2
321 E. 4th St.

Support your local young playwrights!

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem logo

Gadfly supports home-grown talent!

Please donate: the local arts community needs a solid financial base to thrive

Touchstone Theatre
Theatre that transforms

Touchstone 3

Proudly presenting
THE 15th ANNUAL
YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS’ FESTIVAL
ONLINE!

WHEN: Saturday, May 9, 2020 @ 7pm
WHERE: Wherever you are!

Here’s how it works: We’ll be streaming concert readings of our festival finalists on YouTube live. You can tune in for the event, either dressed up in your festival best or in your pajamas.

Link to the livestream will be emailed out and posted on our website and social media by 12 noon on May 9th.

Make it dinner and a show: Since you’ll be watching the festival from home, why not order curbside pickup from your favorite local restaurant? Shop at local greats, like Jenny’s KualiMolinari’sMolly’s Irish PubThe MintBoleteAsiaSetta LunaThe BayouSouthside 313The Wooden Match, and more – they’ve been kind enough to donate to Touchstone and YPF over the years, and treating yourself to dinner is the most delicious way to support your local business community.

And speaking of support: On a normal year, the Festival performance is followed by our annual Gala, which raises money to support Touchstone’s award-winning arts in education programming. In lieu of the Gala, we’re simply accepting donations – we know that money is tight for many of you, and there are many worthy causes (especially now), but any support is greatly appreciated. You can donate directly here. Many thanks to those who have already donated – we’re blown away by your generosity!

Young Playwrights’ Festival is generously sponsored by our naming sponsor


YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS’ FESTIVAL ONLINE

May 9, 2020
Please donate!

Moravian Academy’s Green Team on Limiting the Use of Plastic in Bethlehem

logo The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate
Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council logo

This essay by Moravian Academy’s Green Team was generated as part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound’s Sustainability Forum and is part of an ongoing initiative to stir our community, young and old, black and white, rich and poor, to think creatively about how we can make our home, our community, a better place to live. It is a challenge we can only successfully accomplish together.

Bill George, Touchstone Theatre

Limiting the Use of Plastic in Bethlehem

One issue that is prevalent in our community is single-use plastic pollution and waste, especially surrounding grocery store policies relating to food preservation. Our perspective on the issue is that our community could do a better job of cutting down on plastic use. This would help the environment by limiting the exposure to pollution from the plastic itself and the chemicals used in or on plastic. Is it possible to completely stop using plastic? In today’s world, maybe not, but it is not only possible but plausible to limit the use of plastic and to use more ecologically friendly options whenever possible. Imagine walking into a grocery store and going to the produce section to get some fruit. When you get there, there is plastic everywhere. Plastic bags to hold the fruit, prepackaged vegetables wrapped in plastic, even bundles of bananas held together by and wrapped in plastic. Why is so much plastic packaging necessary in our grocery stores when nature has already provided a natural package? There are such excessive uses of plastic in our community as wrapping bananas together even though they already have peels, unpeeling an orange and packaging it in plastic, or giving out single-use plastic bags in which to carry produce. These can contribute significantly to plastic pollution that can severely harm our environment.

In order to cut down on our community’s plastic use, grocery stores could provide more environmentally friendly options. These options could include having giveaways of free reusable bags for store members, charging extra for using a plastic bag (something that is already done in some places in the U.S.), using paper bags at the checkout instead, having recycling centers in the store for used plastic bags, and giving customers who bring in their own bags or pre-approved containers a small discount from their purchase. U.S. Senator Tom Udall and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal are both members of our government that have been pushing for legislation that addresses our country’s plastic pollution problems, specifically in relation to marine, waterway, and landscape pollution. Also, organizations like the Plastic Pollution Coalition seek to end plastic pollution through education of the public and encouragement of people to be more aware of their plastic consumer consumption as well as to encourage eateries worldwide to end their use of single-use plastics. The Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council also submitted a proposal to the City Council in February of 2019 asking the city of Bethlehem to place a ban on all single-use plastic bags and to enforce a ten-cent fee on paper bags.

One reason plastic pollution has become a big problem is because it poses a chemical danger to our environment. When plastic bags are left undisposed of in waterways like rivers, streams, or the ocean, they can leach toxic chemicals into the water and soil and damage surrounding plants and animals, affecting whole ecosystems and the water we drink. Additionally, in marine environments specifically, the plastic in our water can release odors that mimic those of some species’ food. This draws wildlife towards pollution and can cause entanglement and consumption, killing the animals. The microplastics consumed by organisms at the bottom of the food chain accumulate all the way to the top, resulting in our personal consumption of about 120-140 plastic particles a day.

A resolution to the plastic pollution problem requires action from all levels of our community from personal to corporate. We each must take personal responsibility for our contribution towards plastic use and consumption. By being increasingly aware of what we are purchasing and decreasing our use of single-use plastics by using reusable bags, jars, or containers, we can hope to reduce overall single-use plastic waste. We can also reduce our plastic use by buying from local and small business establishments to avoid large-scale plastic use from the shipping and packaging industries. Individuals can also use reusable water bottles instead of plastic ones.

On a business level, it is necessary to create anti-plastic policies to reinforce the benefits of sustainable action. In grocery stores, deterrents should be implemented against the use of plastic by utilizing a baseline monetary penalty for the use of plastic bags. To reduce plastic use, grocery stores can also invest in bulk food sections where the consumer can bring reusable containers or bags to get what they need. This method of purchase also decreases food waste since consumers only take what they need because the price would be based on weight and not what is cheaper, whether it be more than they need or not. Additionally, we believe that grocery stores should advertise and promote proper recycling and anti-food waste practices to the wider community. For example, stores should encourage the use of plastic bag recycling programs to which most people already have access by providing information about their locations, purposes, and benefits. At restaurants an effort should be made to not offer plastic straws or to, instead, offer a biodegradable or reusable option such as paper or metal straws. Restaurants can also replace styrofoam or plastic take-out containers with biodegradable containers.

Not only are personal responsibility and improved corporate policies necessary to reach a true solution but so is reaching out to our local legislatures and such government officials as Pennsylvania Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey, Jr., to implement laws to protect our environment, health, and natural resources. We must appeal to local governmental bodies like the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council to promote and to continue to protect the environment with legislation like their single plastic reducing ordinance created by the Waste Reduction Task Force. It all starts with voting for those who endorse environmental policies and limiting our plastic production or use.

Green Team
Moravian Academy
Advisor: Cole Wisdo

This essay is also posted on the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council Facebook page March 26.

Theater ticket offer from the Gadfly!

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTS INSTITUTIONS

Don’t be bashful!

Gadfly still has 2 tickets he can’t use for the Sunday March 8, 2 pm performance. Free to someone who hasn’t been to Touchstone Theatre in exchange for at least a selfie that he can publish.

As a bonus, you can take a selfie with the Gadfly his very own self!

Edith Piaf: Hymn to Love

March 5-8, 2020
Thurs-Sat @ 8 p, Sun @ 2p

Teatro Potlach of Fara Sabina, Italy returns with a new reimagining of their Edith Piaf cabaret; the original production played to four sold-out houses on their first visit to Bethlehem! This new iteration, created in collaboration with Touchstone Theatre, will delve deeper into the chanteuse’s life and will feature live accompaniment from Touchstone Musical Director Jason Hedrington.

———–

Dave Howell, “To Piaf with ‘Love’ at Touchstone Theatre.” Bethlehem Press, March 4, 2020.

Edith Piaf may not be a household name in the United States, but she is an icon in her native France and legendary throughout Europe.

Her life was as tumultuous as that of Judy Garland and Billie Holiday, and she has been compared to them.

Piaf was vilified for her many, often scandalous, love affairs and glorified for her singing. She was unique in the emotion she poured into her songs, and in the way they reflected her life.

Touchstone Theatre
321 E. 4th St.

———–

Contact Gadfly via the Contact link here on Gadfly or at ejg1@lehigh.edu.

Never enough H. D.! Thursday, February 13, 6:30-7:45, BAPL South Side

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem logo

Bethlehem-born writer Hilda Doolittle — H. D. —  (1886-1961) is
the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.”

Never enough H. D.!

HD discussion

And Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre’s original play The Secret about H. D., which premiered during Festival UnBound in October, returns April 2-5. Get your tickets early! Don’t miss!
Touchstone Theatre

Never enough H. D.! Thursday, February 13, 6:30-7:45, BAPL South Side

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem logo

Bethlehem-born writer Hilda Doolittle — H. D. —  (1886-1961) is
the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.”

Never enough H. D.!

HD discussion

And Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre’s original play The Secret about H. D., which premiered during Festival UnBound in October, returns April 2-5. Get your tickets early! Don’t miss!
Touchstone Theatre

ABE Awards for Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound productions

logo 78th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre logo

Huzzas, high-fives, hugs, handshakes, and honkings are in order for dramatic elements of Touchstone Theatre’s 10-day festival this fall that occasioned a near record 77 posts here on Gadfly.

Well done!

“The Secret” — the play about Bethlehem-born poet H. D. — returns to Touchstone April 2-5.

Paul Willistein, “14th annual ABEs Salute Lehigh Valley Stage: From plays to musicals, theater unbound in 2019.” Bethlehem Press, January 3, 2020.

Producer: Touchstone Theatre. “Festival UnBound,” the multimedia project two years in the making, produced some 20 events and ran 10 days in October 2019. The festival took a measure of Bethlehem’s southside 20 years after Touchstone’s landmark “Steelbouund” production when SteelStacks was a twinkle in the Christmas City star. It was a big year for Touchstone Theatre, which also produced a terrific 20th production of “Christmas City Follies.”

Play: “The Secret,” Mock Turtle Marionette Theater. The world premiere about H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Bethlehem native and poet, during “Festival UnBound” was part of “Finding H.D., A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle,” a year-long series of events organized by the Lehigh University English Department, Bethlehem Area Public Library, the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre. Doug Roysdon, Artistic Director, Mock Turtle Marionette Theater, was chief writer of the multimedia performance that mixes narrative, song, music, poetry, puppets and actors. Script collaborators were Jennie Gilrain, William Reichard-Flynn, Aidan Gilrain-McKenna, Matilda Snyder, Kalyani Singh and Seth Moglen.

Original Play: “Prometheus/Redux,” Touchstone Theatre. “Prometheus/Redux” was the astounding opening work of “Festival UnBound.” “Prometheus/Redux,” commissioned for “Festival UnBound,” is written by Gerald Stropnicky, a founding member of Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, and directed by Christopher Shorr, Touchstone ensemble member and director of theater at Moravian College. Music is by Harry Mann. Images and footage from the Steelworkers Archives are incorporated into the work as is an image of the implosion of Martin Tower, former Bethlehem Steel Corp. headquarters.

Ensemble, Play: “Prometheus/Redux,” Touchstone Theatre. Touchstone Theatre cofounder and ensemble member Bill George returned as Prometheus. It’s 20 years after he left The Steel and now, instead of being chained to the ladle, he is bound to a hospital bed, suffering liver failure. The cast included former steelworkers, a county judge and members of previous generations of the Touchstone ensemble.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Activating activism at Festival UnBound’s Sustainability Forum

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“The whole UnBound festival was about the future of Bethlehem and how can
we envision what we want to see Bethlehem in the future,
and who more important than the young people to talk to about that.”

Paul Pierpoint, Sustainability Forum Organizer

video by Thomas Braun

You thought I was done with Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound, didn’t you?

Naaa, the Gadfly is going for a round 100 posts.

One Festival event that Gadfly didn’t get to was the Sustainability Forum (though Kathy Fox posted about it), and he is just now catching up on it.

And catching up big time — he is in the pleasurable process of reading 180 essays by high school students passionately concerned with the environment and the future of Bethlehem.

(English profs have a big appetite when students are serving up such deliciously thoughtful text.)

Students from Freedom, Liberty, Bethlehem Catholic, and Moravian Academy.

Writing about such pressing contemporary and local issues as climate change; access to safe, nutritious food; local air quality; stream and ground water quality; drinking water quality; health and fitness; alternative transportation; green space preservation; housing for a growing population; and preservation of pollinators.

Gadfly hopes he will be able to bring some moving examples of this activist writing to you in these pages.

For now enjoy the video sampler about Freedom’s participation in the project.

After writing their essays, many of the students participated in a Town Hall on Lehigh’s campus.

Here is a look at the ambitious full assignment set before these students by Touchstone through such home high school faculty as Freedom’s Donna Roman, John Wallaesa, and George Ziegler, and Liberty’s Lisa Draper and Anthony Markovich:

Town Hall Sustainability project — high school

When it looks to some of us of riper age as if the world surrounds us with seemingly insurmountable problems, it pays to look through the eyes of the young:

“If one person just stands up to make a change, others will too . . .
It only takes one person to make a drastic change.”

Staci Scheetz, Liberty High School

Giving thanks: for those who license us to dream

75th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre

We have gathered today in the spirit of community to rise up and embrace the  possibilities of our future.

And what amazing possibilities they are.

They shine like a piece of polished Bethlehem steel.

They shine like our lights at Christmas time.

They shine like the Star of Bethlehem itself.

You see, for generations, Bethlehem defined itself through its pride of industry through Bethlehem Steel,

But for the last twenty years we have found so many new ways to define ourselves.

We can be anything we want to be.

We are free to dream.

We are unBound!

In this “Festival UnBound,” we will come together for a week of celebration and exploration.

Celebration of this wonderful community,

And exploration of just what kind of a future we want for ourselves.

Throughout the week we will share our dreams of the future,

and then like. like a message in a balloon,

we will send our dreams out into the world,

because those dreams, our dreams, make a difference!

 

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Giving thanks: for good Bethlehem people

logo 73rd in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre logo

There was soooo much in Festival UnBound! Here we are two months later, and Gadfly has still not exhausted the file of good things he wanted to share with you. What better time than the day on which we “officially” pause to give thanks to our blessings to bring you some more clips of the wonderful people who participated in the Festival.

Here is the fourth installment showcasing the outstanding Bethlehem women who participated in the panel that followed a performance of “The Secret,” the play about H. D.’s life. Moderator Jennie Gilrain gave the eight panelists about five minutes each to talk about their “dreams, hopes, works” and perhaps to recount a time when they were “encouraged or inspired or discouraged and oppressed from following your music.” Short biographies of these women can be found here.

The Secret

The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public. The focus of the panel will be on women in leadership. We will connect the panel to the play via a question that Mamalie (Hilda’s maternal grandmother) asks Hilda in the beginning of the play, and H.D. asks the audience at the end of the play: “Who will follow the music?” 

Yalitza Corcino-Davis is one of the first women in her family to graduate from college, an uphill battle, for she remembers the family response to her distress at receiving a low first-year college grade to be that it doesn’t matter for she would get married and not use her education. Which broke her heart, especially knowing that her aunt, mother, and grandmother all had “dreams” that they had to give up. Her dean, however, would not sign her drop-out letter, and now, based on her own experience, she works to empower students to succeed in the college environment.

Phyllis Alexander describes coming from a culture so hated that white people sold their houses simply because she and a small group of black students walked by on their way to the predominantly white school. That hate framed her life. She became a civil rights activist at age 14, making a decision to change her environment. The need to resist has been central to her life, and she can point to “allies” that made a difference. A big moment was realizing that she had to resist what she had internalized. So her message: resist that which you have within you that makes you fear the Other.

 

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

More UnBound voices

logo 72nd in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre logo

Gadfly is still culling the treasures in his Festival UnBound files. So much there.

One of the things he was especially pleased with and impressed by during the Festival was the participation of our elected officials and City administrators. He said so during public comment at a Council meeting.

Councilman Reynolds chaired a panel. Councilwoman Van Wirt appeared on one that we just recently highlighted here with a video of her segment.

Darlene Heller was part of the Sustainability Forum that, unfortunately, he couldn’t attend.

Here Gadfly would like to call attention to the participation by Alicia Miller Karner, our Director of Community and Economic Development and Councilwoman Olga Negron.

These very short clips are especially welcome. If we get to hear City administrators speak, it’s usually about “business.” Ugh. Here we get to hear Alicia “as a person.” And CW Negron, well, she’s not one to speak overmuch at Council. She’s not one of those elected officials that Gadfly calls “wind demons.” So it’s good to hear her warm voice more as well.

The participation of all of these people indicates not only their personal commitment to the future of Bethlehem — the ambitious purpose of the Festival — but how that participation was valued by the festival organizers.

A tip o’ the hat!

Be sure to give a listen.

———–

Alicia Miller Karner, Director of Community and Economic Development

  • “As a community we are continuing to rely on technology, on social media, on different ways of interacting . . . you have to put effort into coming out and interacting.”
  • “The best is still yet to come.”
  • “In my job, I spend a lot of time with those questions of how do we not leave them behind.”
  • “[Responding to the question by another panelist: What am I going to do with my anger?] Honoring the anger stuck with me more.”
  • “[Responding to a comment about lack of diversity in City Hall] Very male. Many times I am the only female in the room.”

Olga Negron, Bethlehem Councilwoman

  • We hear that she once made a living sewing for the theater and the return to that in the Prometheus play “grounded” her again.
  • “It’s up to us. It shouldn’t be up to the Mayor, it shouldn’t be up to the Administration, or even to us in City Council — it’s our community, and to me [the play is] a call to be involved, to be engaged.”
  • “I’m always looking forward to listen to my emails, my phone calls, conversations . . . we cannot just sit down and watch, we have to be participants.”
  • “We need to be more humble, learn to embrace, and, you know, encourage us to invite others that might not look like us or speak like us so that we can move forward in the community some of us might be wishing, dreaming of.”

Bravo!

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

More wonderful Bethlehem women

logo 71st in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre logo

The Secret

The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public. The focus of the panel will be on women in leadership. We will connect the panel to the play via a question that Mamalie (Hilda’s maternal grandmother) asks Hilda in the beginning of the play, and H.D. asks the audience at the end of the play: “Who will follow the music?” 

Gadfly is not done with showcasing the outstanding Bethlehem women who participated in the panel that followed a Festival Unbound performance of “The Secret,” the play about H. D.’s life. You will remember from our two previous installments here that moderator Jennie Gilrain gave the eight panelists about five minutes each to talk about their “dreams, hopes, works” and perhaps to recount a time when they were “encouraged or inspired or discouraged and oppressed from following your music.” Short biographies of these women can be found here.

Emily Santana, a woman from a modest household who dreamed of impossible things and, when accepted to college, was told by someone very, very close to her, “O, wow, I didn’t realize you would amount to something” — causing her to think about who decides your value, and about challenging expectations people have, not just of her, but any category of person, especially of our children.

Margaret Kavanagh –who has “a little job,” is “just a custodian” and doesn’t “know why I am here” — tells kids to be kind, help each other out, and if you can’t do random acts of kindness, “just don’t be a jerk.” Margaret  beats herself up sometimes but has an awesome therapist. Advice: be a positive influence on people around you.

to be continued . . .

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

More stories of Bethlehem women in leadership roles: stereotypes and epiphanies

logo 70th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre logo

The Secret

The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public. The focus of the panel will be on women in leadership. We will connect the panel to the play via a question that Mamalie (Hilda’s maternal grandmother) asks Hilda in the beginning of the play, and H.D. asks the audience at the end of the play: “Who will follow the music?” 

Here are two more participants on the panel that followed a Festival Unbound performance of “The Secret,” the play about H. D.’s life. Moderator Jennie Gilrain gave the eight panelists about five minutes each to talk about their “dreams, hopes, works” and perhaps to recount a time when they were “encouraged or inspired or discouraged and oppressed from following your music.” Gadfly should have said last time that short biographies of these women can be found here.

Nancy Matos Gonzalez ran into the generational wall that college is for the boys but was fortunate to meet a woman who acted as her advocate and mentor. When running for office, she realized that she had to work harder after a man told her that Puerto Rican women are only interested in sex and their men are all on drugs.

Dr. Paige Van Wirt’s story is a story of epiphanies, one saying “O, my god, that’s my path” out of a soul-crushing job as a bond analyst after watching a movie in which a woman wants to be a doctor, and the another saying “I can do that” after leaving a City Council meeting angry and outraged.

to be continued . . .

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Bethlehem women talk of efforts to follow “their music”

logo 69th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre logo

The Secret

The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise.” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public. The focus of the panel will be on women in leadership. We will connect the panel to the play via a question that Mamalie (Hilda’s maternal grandmother) asks Hilda in the beginning of the play, and H.D. asks the audience at the end of the play: “Who will follow the music?’ 

Gadfly loves the voices, the stories of our residents, and there was no better place to hear them than at the panels that followed Festival Unbound performances, such as after “The Secret,” the play about H. D.’s life.

Moderator Jennie Gilrain gave the eight panelists about five minutes each to talk about their “dreams, hopes, works” and perhaps recount a time when they were “encouraged or inspired or discouraged and oppressed from following your music.”

Here are the first two.

Abriana Ferrari, who’s been laughed at, told she is not smart enough, too innocent, too young to follow her music, that is, becoming an environmental lawyer with a desire to “help heal the scars that we are implanting on our planet.”

Mary C. Foltz talks of finding a group that enabled her to let go of shame and doubt when in college she was struggling with her sexual identity and how now she is most interested in institutional and structural change that will benefit women in our community having to do with reproductive justice: IVF,  adoption, childcare for low-paid workers, care for children in general.

to be continued . . .

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Diversity at City Hall: “Who’s sitting in the decision table?”

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Hidden Seed: Bethlehem’s Forgotten Utopia

“In the first two decades, the Moravians built a racially integrated city.”
(Seth Moglen)

When you hear “a Priest, a Rabbi, and a Minister walk into a bar,” prepare for a joke.

When you hear a Latino man, an African American woman, and a White woman are discussing diversity, prepare for an indictment.

Such happened in the middle of the panel discussion following the “Hidden Seed” performance during Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound.

“Who’s sitting in the decision table?” asked LM, “if you don’t have the diversity in the decision table, it’s no diversity at all.” “Take, for example, the City Hall here in Bethlehem, ok,” followed AAW, “tell us about the diversity in City Hall [pause], there’s hardly any diversity in City Hall. . . . It’s all white most of the time. . . . So when you’re talking about how can we change our city, well, I think our City Hall needs to be reflective of the people, the composition should include the people of the community. . . . It is very, very, very Anglo.” “And very male,” adds WW, “many times I’m in the room, I’m the only female in the room in City Hall. . . . I get very tired having to explain that I think differently . . . I entertain ideas differently, and it’s almost that I got to justify. . . . It is absolutely an unconscious bias. . . . In the business community, in government, it’s a challenge.”

Short exchange, long in ramification.

Elections are on Gadfly’s mind today as you can see from the previous two posts.

Some random thoughts to chew on as we think about the role future elections play in furthering the goal of a more diverse city:

  • Should diversity start at the top?
  • What would a photo of the Mayor’s staff meeting show?
  • Are we getting close to a woman mayor?
  • We have three female councilpersons — a record number?
  • Can we imagine more, even a totally female Council?
  • We have Latino representation on Council — sufficient?
  • Has there ever been an African American on Council?
  • Has there ever been an African American running for Council?
  • Does a range, a balance of race and gender and heritage in our elected officials matter?

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“Maybe it’s just like, I don’t know, like fireflies in the summer, just be a light here and a light there”

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Hidden Seed: Bethlehem’s Forgotten Utopia

Fireflies in the summer.

What a beautiful image.

Poetic, really.

What a horrible thought.

Apocalyptic, really.

Spoken by an African American Political Science professor almost at the end of the panel discussion after Festival UnBound’s play “Hidden Seed.”

In a very real sense the 10-day festival can be thought of as an orgy of good feeling. You couldn’t be on Payrow Plaza that last perfectly weathered night without experiencing the orgasmic release of (channeling Walt Whitman) long pent-up aching rivers of love for and empathy with our Bethlehem brothers and sisters. All our brothers and sisters. “Of every hue and caste am I,” Whitman chanted in his democratic ecstasy.

When our antic ringmaster proclaimed “We love you, Bethlehem!” we were one.

When we lit our candles on the parapet and peered into the City’s navel, we signed on to a kind of suicide mission.

By god, we are going to make this town a better place  — or else!

But 17 days past that almost cult-like charisma, a firm, sober voice from the “Hidden Seed” back row naggingly nips at Gadfly’s optimism like a speck in the eye or a pebble in a shoe.

  • “I don’t know where we are.”
  • “I thought we were further along on this path.”
  • “I’m a political science professor.”
  • “The last election and everything that’s happened since then has totally messed with how far along I thought we were.”
  • “The path I thought we were moving along in the right direction as far as inclusion as far as accepting others.
  • “And now I find that maybe a third to maybe forty percent of the people in this country have a very different idea than I do.”
  • “What I got from this play was that there are these bursts , it seems, of activity, and maybe things don’t work out, and then maybe somewhere else there’s another burst, and maybe that’s the way it is.
  • “And maybe you can’t really think of it as linear progression from bad to better.”
  • “Maybe it’s just like, I don’t know, like fireflies in the summer, just be a light here and a light there.”
  • “Maybe that’s the way it is.”

An African American who’s “lost.”

Progress — random, illusory.

Maybe the long arc of the universe doesn’t bend toward justice.

Maybe on that parapet we were just one more firefly burst briefly adorning the darkness.

Say it ain’t so.

Gadfly has to believe in progress, has to believe in the steady ascent of human kind from the brutal forms fighting over a water-hole in the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Has to believe that democracy is ever in the making.

The title of Lehigh professor Stephanie Powell Watts’ novel Nobody’s Going to Save Us was invoked many times during the festival.

Maybe what we will most need to save ourselves from is . . . our own doubt.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Not “Yes, but” but “Yes, and”

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Hidden Seed: Bethlehem’s Forgotten Utopia

There’s a dramatic moment right in the middle of the panel discussion after Festival UnBound’s “Hidden Seed” performance at which moderator Jennie Gilrain turns passionately to the actress who plays Margaret, the Moravian woman, and exclaims:

The message for us in Jennie’s mock-violent impulse is strong.

Can anyone doubt that our national culture is fractured along racial lines?

Is there anyone who doesn’t want our hometown to welcome diversity, to be  characterized by more equality and community — the focal topics of the panel discussion?

We had that kind of town . . . in the beginning . . . for a brief time.

“In the first two decades,” says play author-historian Seth Moglen, “the Moravians built a racially integrated city that abolished poverty, shared wealth equally, emancipated women to be leaders, and provided free education, health care, child care, and elder care to all.”

“A racially integrated city.”

That’s our forgotten utopia.

That’s our present dream.

Listen to Margaret:

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The Bethlehem utopia attracted the young Margaret. It was a place where she loved her Native sisters. However, when Margaret is confronted by her Native and African sisters with the failure of that utopia, she bobs and weaves, she stammers, she excuses, she evades, she backpedals, she blames, she rationalizes, she avoids, she repels.

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We had a City on a Hill, but . . . but . . . but.

In short, see Margaret, the white woman, full of “yes, buts.”

Over and over again.

And Jennie wants to wring her neck

because she sees herself in Margaret.

Exactly.

Doesn’t that plant an arrow to the future equitable community that we in Bethlehem want?

The road to that ideal city is paved with our recognition and consequent action.

“Yes, and now what?” should be our motto.

Enough of bobbing and weaving.

The Festival was about identifying and pursuing the “what(s).”

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Festival UnBound’s “Hidden Seed”: “it took me hours to download”

logo65th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

Hidden Seed: Bethlehem’s Forgotten Utopia

Our Moravian history was a lot more complicated than the tourist guides let on.

Do you know about the Moravian massacre of Native Americans at Gnadenhutten?

Do you know that there were slaves in Bethlehem?

That’s the terrible knowledge that a ticket to Touchstone’s Festival UnBound play bought for us.

Three 18th century female Bethlehem ghosts — a formerly enslaved West African woman, a Native American woman, and one of the original Moravian immigrants from Europe — agree to tell everything, the whole story not just the happy parts, without lying.

This raising of History’s skirt, which Gadfly witnessed in Sisters House and characterized as a spiritual experience like going to Mass in the Catacombs, was the toughest of the Festival’s three dramatic events for him to bear.

Olga Negron found just the right words. “It took me hours to download,” she said, “It was heavy. My partner and I were driving home like quiet. We even went for a walk.”

“After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” the poet says.

Walk it off, my racially comfortable Bethlehemites, if you can.

Given the disturbing nature of the core dramatic tension in the play, it was not surprising that the post-performance panel discussion was, for Gadfly, the most challenging.

Moderator Jennie Gilrain prepped panelists (Olga Negron, Javier Torres, Alicia Miller Karner, Winston Alozi, Berto, Stephanie Powell Watts, and the three actors) to pick and choose among three questions:

What kind(?) of equality and community do we want in the City of Bethlehem today?

What’s holding us back? What’s preventing us from cultivating more equality and community?

What can we learn from the experience of the City’s 18th century Founders explored in the play?

Following past practice, Gadfly offers you here the entire discussion, suggesting that you listen your way through first. And then we’ll come back and focus on and think about specific sections.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Moravian College and Touchstone Theatre joint program

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This Moravian professor, whose name Gadfly doesn’t know, alerted us during discussion after Festival UnBound’s “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” of a partnership between Moravian and Touchstone Theatre.

MFA in Performance Creation

“The partnership between Moravian College and Touchstone Theatre creates a bridge between the College and the professional theatre, and between the College and our local community.”

Brand-new program that Gadfly knew nothing about: the first cohort of students began last August.

Touchstone, we know, specializes in “socially engaged performance creation and community-based work,” and this program with Moravian will enhance its people resources while spreading its mission.

Gadfly has always said that Touchstone Theatre is one of Bethlehem’s treasures. Now it will help train treasure-makers for other communities.

“I’m a college professor and a professional theatre artist. As a member of both the Touchstone Theatre company and the Moravian College faculty, I’ve been able to build a bridge between the two institutions that gives our students terrific opportunities. When college students take what they learn in the classroom and see it applied out in the world, it sinks in. We want to give them a head start, so that when they graduate they are to hit the ground running.”

–Christopher Shorr, Director of Theatre  

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“If history informs anything . . . we have a strong foundation to be able to address the issues that are facing us today”

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I hear we are speaking about history this morning.

  • “The heritage of the Southside especially was that it was a wildly divergent population.”
  • “So what you need to understand about Bethlehem is that it is founded by and large by an immigrant population.”
  • From it’s very start it’s an immigrant population community, and it served and it fostered immigrant populations and divergent racial populations for its entire history.”
  • “That is our heritage; that is our legacy.”
  • “And this is a legacy that can continue to be developed in some strategic fashion.”
  • “It’s hard for us to understand — there’s so many social, political, etc. problems that are facing us, but I will just say if history informs anything that we have a strong foundation to be able to address the issues that are facing us today.”
  • “We can figure out a way to build on our strengths, which includes our history and our heritage.”

From the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” event by a woman whom, unfortunately, Gadfly doesn’t know.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“I feel that there’s a huge void about the history of the Steel”

logo62nd in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

Speaking of history to celebrate as per the previous post about the good visitor from Allentown.

More fertile thoughts from the panel after Festival UnBound’s “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” event.

We have the National Museum of Industrial History, but Geoff Gehman sees a resource much more specific filling a void in historical knowledge about Bethlehem Steel and providing a valuable educational tool.

  • “One of the things I’d like to see is a dedicated museum.”
  • “Having a dedicated museum that talks about the Steel as a community that was integrated workwise and segregated socially.”
  • “. . . integrate that into the curriculum of the schools.”
  • “Not a bad way to start getting kids early and then hopefully influencing the parents and other generations too.”
  • “I feel that there’s a huge void about the history of the Steel.”
  • “It’s rich as hell.”

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“Bethlehem has history to celebrate . . . We always come to Bethlehem”

logo61st in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

One of Gadfly’s major heroes is Thoreau, you know, the guy who went to live in the woods (though the meaning of that “sojourn,” as he called it, is most often misunderstood).

Thoreau loved mornings.

“The Morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour . . . All intelligences awake with the morning.”

Gadfly loves Monday morning especially — new week, new beginning, rebirth.

Gadfly has three first-semester college grandchildren right now.

He writes them cheerleading emails every Monday morning, urging them to awake with the morning of the week and to do well.

Here’s a cheerleading Monday morning message for you.

From an Allentown visitor to Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound “Prometheus / Redux” play.

  • “As much as you need to know where you’re going, and that’s so important, I think to keep track of where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished.”
  • “You guys have it together.”
  • “You give us art, you give us community.”
  • “We in Allentown wonder why they can’t do it better.”
  • “Bethlehem has history to celebrate; Allentown was a banking community.”
  • “You can’t celebrate banking.”
  • “We’re from Allentown . . . We always come to Bethlehem.”

Gadfly loves the voices of “real” people. That’s why he tries to amplify them so much in these pages.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten